After enduring season after season of mostly sub-par play in the ultra-competitive Big 12 Conference, Kansas University athletic director Sheahon Zenger decided enough was enough and on Monday morning fired women's basketball coach Bonnie Henrickson.
“At the end of the day, she gave her best effort to KU for 11 seasons and KU was very fair with her,” said Zenger of the coach who was 186-171 overall but just 62-122 in Big 12 play. “What made it difficult was she was a great teammate for all of us and she did everything we asked her to do.”
Except win enough games.
After taking over the program that had struggled to four consecutive losing seasons under former KU coach Marian Washington in 2004-05, Henrickson led the Jayhawks to seven postseason appearances in 11 seasons. However, only two of those were trips to the NCAA Tournament — back-to-back Sweet 16 runs in 2012 and 2013 — and Henrickson's KU teams never finished above .500 in conference play or in the top half of the Big 12 standings.
Given the importance that Zenger and the rest of the athletic department have put on head-to-head match-ups with Kansas State, Henrickson's 0-3 record against the Wildcats this season — which included a home loss and a Big 12 tournament setback in Dallas — as well as an overall mark of 6-19 against K-State may have had as much as anything to do with her firing.
Henrickson, who was extended with a five-year, $505,000-per-year contract following a second straight trip to the Sweet 16 in 2013, will be paid a one-time buyout of $395,000 which was worked into the new contract.
Even KU's best years under Henrickson, which featured all-conference point guard Angel Goodrich leading the charge, included some disappointment along the way. KU's best record under Henrickson in Big 12 play was 8-10 twice (2012 and 2013), and her conference records since taking over the KU program were: 5-11, 5-11, 4-12, 4-12, 6-10, 5-11, 6-10, 8-10, 8-10, 5-13, and 6-12.
That 6-12 mark placed ninth in the 10-team Big 12 this season, and her 15-17 overall record in 2014-15 led to the program missing the postseason for the second year in a row since those Sweet 16 appearances.
Zenger said he appreciated Henrickson's commitment to KU from start to finish but emphasized that, ultimately, the numbers stacked too heavily against her.
As for where he would start the search to replace Henrickson, the fifth-year KU athletic director said things were wide open and added that he was confident that the KU opening would attract several quality coaches.
“They could come in all kinds of different packages,” he said of potential candidates. “But winning games is what they need to do. That's the job. This is Kansas basketball and we expect great things.”
To that end, Zenger, who named Henrickson assistant Katie O'Connor as the program's interim head coach, said he was not worried about the specific timeline for hiring a replacement.
“We've got a lot of time on this,” he said. “We feel comfortable, with Katie in place, that we have plenty of time to survey the landscape and get the right coach.”
Bonnie Henrickson, through the years:
2004-05 — 12-16 overall, 5-11 Big 12 (8th)
2005-06 — 17-13 overall, 5-11 Big 12 (10th)
2006-07 — 11-20 overall, 4-12 Big 12 (T-11th)
2007-08 — 17-16 overall, 4-12 Big 12 (T-10th)
2008-09 — 22-14 overall, 6-10 Big 12 (T-7th)
2009-10 — 17-16 overall, 5-11 Big 12 (T-8th)
2010-11 — 21-13 overall, 6-10 Big 12 (8th)
2011-12 — 21-13 overall, 8-10 Big 12 (T-6th)
2012-13 — 20-14 overall, 8-10 Big 12 (7th)
2013-14 — 13-19 overall, 5-13 Big 12 (8th)
2014-15 — 15-17 overall, 6-12 Big 12 (9th)
Totals: 186-171 overall, 62-122 Big 12